The Oslo Architecture Triennale (OAT) 2019 has opened with a series of exhibitions and performances calling on architects to reject ‘excessive economic growth’. The event has been curated by Maria Smith and Matthew Dalziel of UK trans-disciplinary firm Interrobang, Architecture Foundation deputy director Phineas Harper and Norwegian researcher, lecturer and artist Cecilie Sachs Olsen
The festival – which runs for six weeks until 24 November – encourages architects, clients and wider society to question the perceived ‘given-ness’ of our capitalist future and abandon the pursuit of GDP growth as a fundamental measure of human progress.
Launching the triennale at a reception in Oslo City Hall last Thursday (26 September), Harper invited visitors to reflect on the festival’s theme ‘Enough’ and share their findings with the world.
Congratulating the curators, Oslo’s mayor Marianne Borgen suggested the wellbeing of future generations should be a fundamental benchmark by which to gauge the success of Norwegian society and elsewhere.
The four curators were chosen to devise the festival in 2017. Their winning bid proposed to investigate the ‘potential architecture of degrowth’ at a time of escalating environmental crisis.
Announcing OAT 2019’s theme in August, they said they were aiming for the ‘most practical triennale ever’ with lots of ‘really bold’ take-home ideas to help create sustainable design briefs of the future.
Speaking at the press launch last Wednesday, Smith said: ‘In this era of climate emergency, biodiversity collapse, and social inequality, every industry, art form, and endeavour must question its practice. The practice of architecture must respond.’
With buildings and construction accounting for 39 per cent of energy-related CO2 emissions and cement alone estimated to contribute up to 7 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions, Smith suggested architects had a duty to think beyond designing buildings and reconsider the organisation of society itself.
Smith said: ‘It being easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism, can we not realign our current economic system toward climate justice? Can we not make everyone happy by pursuing green growth?’
She continued: ‘If we’re to live on this finite planet, we have to abandon the pursuit of GDP growth. Degrowth is a movement that seeks a shift away from a society that incentivises the extraction of the earth’s natural resources and rewards the exploitation of animals and other people, to a society that incentivises the cultivation of a planet able to sustain life and reward care.’
The audio tour Place Listening devised by Sachs Olsen and Nina Lund Westerdahl whereby guests assume the role of ‘gentrifiers anonymous’ and are led through a critical exploration of Oslo’s post-industrial Hausmanns Gate creative district.
The festival will feature more than 100 events, performances, exhibitions, walks and other activities spread across four principal ‘Insitutions of Degrowth’ dubbed The Library, The Theatre, The Playground and The Academy.
The Library – hosted within Oslo’s National Museum of Architecture – features a series of models, construction prototypes, board games, pamphlets, books and even furniture which can be studied, handled and borrowed.
Looking at both systemic and collective change, the free-to-enter installation encourages architects to rethink ideas of efficiency and embrace alternative viewpoints on human progress.
Key contributions include the boardgame Bartertown by Janette Kim with Jen Tai and Clare Hacko, which hypothesises a future world without money; a series of Solar Instrument toys by Rachel Jones-Jones and Maegan Icke; and a biowaste power plant by Public Practice.
Other contributors include David Kohn Architects and the Global Free Unit led by Robert Mull, Thomas Randall Page and Xenia Adjoubei. All exhibition materials will also be fully available for re-use after the show closes in November.
The Playground – hosted within the ROM gallery nearby – meanwhile features a series of interactive performances encouraging participants to listen to and step outside the everyday activities of the city. Highlights include an audio tour ‘Place Listening’ devised by Sachs Olsen andNina Lund Westerdahl whereby guests assume the role of ‘Gentrifiers Anonymous’ and are led through a critical exploration of Oslo’s post-industrial Hausmanns Gate creative district.
Introducing the concept, Sachs Olsen said: ‘Today we are bombarded with images in movies, in advertisements and in CGI renderings that tell us what the future will look like. At the same time the idea that endless economic growth is the only way forward, has come to dominate to such an extent that it has become almost impossible for us to imagine alternatives or to tell other stories.’
‘But we need to insist that there is no such thing as one determined future, but various possible futures that can be realised at any given time. The OAT 2019 Institutions of Degrowth are places for imagining, for creating and telling stories and for constructing new worlds.’
Berlin theatre collective Rimini Protokoll will also present ‘Society Under Construction’ – a unique promenade show within Oslo’s baroque National Theatre in which the troubling contradictions within the construction industry and unpacked and played out s
Berlin theatre collective Rimini Protokoll will present Society Under Construction – a unique promenade show within Oslo’s baroque National Theatre in which the troubling contradictions within the construction industry are unpacked and played out simultaneously side-by-side.
Rather than provide a catalogue, the triennale’s official publication is a collection of short science-fiction stories Gross Ideas edited by Edwina Attlee who teaches critical and contextual studies in architecture and interiors at The Cass, London Metropolitan University.
At a reading inside Oslo’s Design and Architecture Norway (DOGA), Harper said the provocative and sometimes dystopian book – which contains essays by Will Self, Robin Nicholson of Cullinan Studio and Ghanaian-Scottish architect and novelist Lesley Lokko – invited readers to challenge their ‘realistic’ expectations of the future.